Beef

I’m currently sitting at my computer with a blanket and a cat on my lap, and wearing a hoodie and house slippers for the first time this year. Sounds like the perfect time to break out a stew recipe.

Pichelsteiner is a very typical stew, found in similar shapes and sizes all over the world. There are several stories to explain its invention, a common trait among stews. One folk tale details how a farmer’s wife fed the stew to a group of marauding soldiers, saving the day (and her family) with this new culinary invention. Another tale explains how a Bavarian chef prepared Pichelsteiner for party atop Büchelstein mountain (allegedly, the name of this dish morphed from there). Finally, the small Bavarian village of Regen, along the Czech border, claims ownership of this dish as well, which they have communally served at the anniversary of their church’s dedication in 1874.

Pichelsteiner shares another feature with other regional stews: it serves as the solution to those pesky leftovers that creep up in the fridge. As truly communal fare, the stew incorporates a spectrum of ingredients available to pre-industrial Germans: mushrooms, onion, carrots, leeks, cabbage, potatoes, and three types of meat. So if you don’t have all the ingredients, or if you have a couple extra that aren’t listed below, don’t fret – there’s a lot of wiggle room here.

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The word tagine (tajine, الطاجين) is both the name of a North African stew, and the conical earthenware pot in which it is usually cooked. The use of ceramics in North Africa was the result of Roman influence, and these dishes have been enjoyed for thousands of years.

Tagine pots are unique in that they trap steam and return the condensed liquid to the dish, enabling chefs to make tender foods with minimal added water, which is ideal in areas where water is scarce. For today’s recipe, I’ve provided instructions to create this dish with a dutch oven or deep skillet; so long as the lid has a very tight seal, you should be able to closely mimic the original dish – some folks like to cover their pots with tin foil before adding the lid, to ensure a completely tight seal.

There are countless spice options when preparing a tagine, but for this particular recipe I modeled my approach after a traditional Mrouzia, a tagine that is often served during Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice). This Muslim celebration honors Ibrahim’s (Abraham’s) willingness to sacrifice his son at God’s command, only to be provided a sacrificial goat at the last minute instead. During this celebration, a lamb (or sometimes goat) is ritually sacrificed and shared among family, neighbors, and the needy; in many settings, they prepare Mrouzia using the sacrificed lamb.

Mrouzia is served with toasted (blanched) almonds, and typically flavored with saffron and Ras el Hanout, a popular North African spice mixture. Commercial versions of Ras el Hanout exist, but it’s not too challenging to put together your own fresh spice blend (my recipe is below); you’ll likely have most of these spices in your pantry already, except perhaps for mace. While potatoes aren’t a typical accompaniment to Mrouzia, I find that they add a hefty balance to the sweet/salty mixture of the dish; steamed basmati rice (or couscous, if you’re not gluten-averse) also works well as a starch.

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Potjiekos has all of the things I like in a good stew: tender and rich meat, sauce that’s bursting with deep flavors, subtly-seasoned vegetables, and a good backstory. I’ve been watching a lot of Game of Thrones lately (well, once a week), and digging into the show’s theories and lore, so I’m most interested in the backstory part right now. Let’s dig in.

Cast-iron cooking was first popularized in Europe during the 1500s. During the Siege of Leiden, South Holland, in 1573-1574 (part of the Eighty Years’ War between the Netherlands and Spain), the local townspeople turned to communal hodgepodge cooking to survive – in small cast-iron pots, with any meat and vegetables they could find. This communal dish bore the name hutspot, and remains popular today.

Hutspot cooking was carried by Dutch explorers who arrived at the Cape of Good Hope (in present day Cape Town, South Africa) in 1652; over time, the dish started to incorporate new spices brought in from the Dutch East India Company, and took on the name Potjiekos (“small pot food”), using a small three-pronged cast-iron pot called a potjie pot, and cooked over an open fire.

Potjiekos eventually spread throughout South Africa when Voortrekkers (Dutch pioneers), dissatisfied with the then-British colonial administration of Cape Colony, migrated eastwards in 1837 into much of what makes greater South Africa today. Locals appreciated the practicality of potjie pots over their traditional clay pots, and they were integrated into several tribal cuisines – often to cook maize-based porridges such as putu or pap. It’s striking to see these medieval cauldrons take root in a place so far from their origin, and it’s a testament to the adaptability of humankind.

Today, Potjiekos remains a communal dish, cooked outdoors among friends (and a bottle of wine). If you are comfortable with cooking over an open fire, it’s definitely worth the extra effort. For everyone else, adding a bit of liquid smoke can replicate the experience while remaining in the kitchen. I even added Instant Pot instructions below the recipe, for good measure. This dish can be made with any meat, from lamb to chicken to fish, but I prefer the naturally rich flavor that comes from simmering oxtails.

Potjiekos is distinct from traditional stews in that the ingredients are not stirred together until right before serving; instead, the vegetables are layered over the meat and steamed, giving each ingredient its own distinct flavor. Additionally, you don’t want to add much liquid to the pot – just enough to cook the oxtails – since the vegetables will release plenty of liquid as they steam.

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I realize that this recipe’s title starts with the word “spaghetti”, but make no mistake about it – the meatballs are the star of this week. Since first developing this meatball recipe for Paleo Takeout, we’ve made it often, at least monthly. There are a few little touches that make the meatballs just perfect: a mix of beef and pork so that the meat flavor is prominent but not overwhelming, egg yolks for creaminess, gelatin powder for a smooth and succulent texture, and bacon for little bursts of umami.

One of my favorite ways to describe these meatballs is to say that they’ll make your Italian grandmother swoon. Matter of fact, just as I’m writing this intro, I’ve decided to add them to our dinner menu this week.

Here is the writeup from Paleo Takeout:

It seems like every country has a meatball recipe, from the very popular Swedish meatballs to the relatively unknown Finnish meatballs (Lihapullat), often made with reindeer meat. Italian meatballs are larger than most other meatballs and are prized for their tenderness. Gelatin may seem like a strange addition, but it gives the meatballs a velvety texture, not unlike what you’d expect from eating veal.

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Back in 2012, I posted this recipe for traditionally-cut Korean Short Ribs (Galbi, Kalbi, 갈비). It’s one of the defining moments of this blog, when I started to dive head-first into the heritage, history, and language of food, and it remains one of my favorite recipes. In fact, we still cook this dish about once a month; after recently relocating to Virginia, I grilled up some Galbi for friends, and knew that it was time to share an updated version of this classic.

Wang Galbi (“King Galbi”) look a little different from the L.A.-cut short ribs you’re likely used to, but this is the original preparation for this dish. Ideally, you’ll want to find bone-in English-cut short ribs for this dish, but you could still use L.A.-cut or boneless short ribs as well.

I have a few versions of this recipe floating around on the internet and in my books, but for this week’s recipe I wanted to share the version that I’ve been personally making over the past couple years. I like to think of this as my weeknight-friendly recipe; I’ll combine the marinade the night before, and then pop it on the grill the following evening. All in all, you can’t find many recipes that taste this good while requiring minimal work.

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Yesterday, we celebrated Memorial Day here in the US. Previously known as Decoration Day, it was first celebrated after the American Civil War to honor those who had died in the war. It later expanded to encompass anyone in the Armed Forces who had died while in service to the country. As a tradition, families would gather to put flowers on the graves of those who had fallen, and would follow it with a potluck meal. It became a Federal holiday in the 1970s, and is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

Today, Memorial Day means a lot of things to a lot of people – honoring fallen service members, family gatherings, the start of summer. From a culinary perspective, Memorial Day ushers in the start of grilling season (although that varies by region).

Each year, as I drag my grill out of the shed, I try and take a moment to remember those who gave their lives in defense of their country – regardless of the country they died serving, or the policy decisions that got them there. Having served in the US Navy these past 17 years, it hits close to home; I find myself recognizing more and more names of fallen service members each year. Human history is wrought with stories of people dying when they probably rather wouldn’t have, and I think it’s worth the time to reflect on that from time to time.

I’m a day late in posting my favorite grill recipe of this year, mostly because I’m currently on assignment in a different part of the country, and away from my usual churn of recipe development. Luckily I had this recipe set aside for summer, and it’s the perfect time to share.

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Today’s recipe is one that long-time The Domestic Man readers will recognize, a couple times over. I first tackled the dish in 2012, and again in 2013; and then in 2014, during a spurt of creativity, I went back and thoroughly researched the dish, including the individual histories of every ingredient used in the dish (you can find that post here).

I think this dish is the perfect introduction to my new blogging approach, wherein I post recipes from my upcoming cookbook instead of trying to balance my time between maintaining the blog with new recipes while secretly testing new dishes for the book. As you’ll learn in future posts, my new book will continue the path I’ve been forging for the past seven years now, by focusing on traditional and historically-appropriate dishes. I feel that these dishes taste the best, as they’re a reflection of hundred (if not thousands) of years spent cooking in front of a fire.

It’s hard to top Boeuf Bourguignon when it comes to flavor. As if the decadent flavors of butter, red wine, stock, and tender beef aren’t enough, we up the ante by starting with bacon. I’ve made a few improvements to this dish over the years, like separating the beef from the bones ahead of time so that you can fish the bones out easily at the end. It’s not a quick recipe, nor should it be, but it makes six portions and freezes like a dream.

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I’m not sure what it is about 2017, but I’ve really appreciated ground meat more than usual. Much like last month’s Beef Tinaktak, I appreciate the ease and brevity that comes from these quick meals, both done in less than 30 minutes.

Today’s recipe for Keema Matar is a North Indian and Pakistani dish characterized by mincemeat (typically lamb or goat) and peas. The word “Keema” (mincemeat) appears to have a universal origin; in addition to being the same word in Hindi (क़ीमा), Punjabi (ਕ਼ੀਮਾ), and Urdu (قیمہ), similar words can be found throughout Europe and Asia, like the Greek κιμάς (kimás), Turkish kıyma, and Armenian ղեյմա (gyemah). This has led scholars to believe that the Greek “kimas” and English “mince” may share the same origin, from the Proto-Indo-European *(e)mey-, a word that translates to “small, little”, and eventually led to our modern words like “minute”, “diminish”, and “minimum”. Others believe that the Greek “kimas” is derived from the Ancient Greek κόμμα (komma), which translates to “piece, that which is cut off”, and which later became our modern word for “comma”. Isn’t language fun?

While many diners may not recall experiencing Keema Matar as an entrée, they’ve likely seen it before, used as a common filling for everybody’s favorite Indian savory pastry, the mighty samosa.

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I’ve been to the small Pacific island of Guam about a dozen times in my life, but never for long – usually I was disembarking from a US Navy ship and headed to the airport, on my way back home. There were a few moments when I was lucky enough to spend a day or two on the island before catching a flight, relaxing by the beach and reveling in the novelty of not having to wear a uniform 24/7. Regrettably, though, I never got a chance to enjoy a homestyle meal while in Guam. To be fair, the last time I was there was well over 10 years ago, in the dark period before smartphone apps like Yelp–at the time, my food explorations usually just consisted of eating wherever was within walking distance.

I think the fact that I missed out on some of Guam’s homestyle cuisine is what draws me towards one of Guam’s signature comfort foods, and today’s recipe, Beef Tinaktak. In essence, this dish is like a taste of what could have been, had I the opportunity to enjoy a home-cooked meal there. Beef Tinaktak’s pairing of ground beef, tomatoes, green beans, and coconut milk sounds a little strange on paper, but the resulting flavor is anything but; it’s immediately comforting, while wholly unique.

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We’re in the thick of stew season here in the US; this is the time of year where I like to spend my lazy weekend afternoons filling the house with the smells of simmering meat and winter vegetables. Unfortunately for stew season, but fortunately for us, our little part of Florida is still experiencing warm weather: as I type this, it’s 74F outside right now. Understandably, I’ve had a hard time getting into the winter stew spirit, as warm weather calls for warm-weather food.

So this past weekend I decided to mix both worlds, combining the comforts of cooking a stew and the flavors of an exotic dish. Today’s recipe for Curried Beef Stew doesn’t quite have a distinct origin, and its flavor is equal parts Indonesian Beef Rendang and Japanese Curry (the latter’s recipe is found in my debut cookbook, The Ancestral Table): earthy, hearty, and exceptionally rich.

In developing this dish, I wanted to appeal to many audiences. The recipe is Whole30-friendly, to be used as a resource for those who are starting their New Year off with some squeaky-clean eating. Included at the bottom of the recipe are also instructions for those of you who were recently gifted an Instant Pot electric pressure cooker, or are dusting it off after a period of neglect. Finally, I was careful to choose ingredients that are readily available at any grocery store – no need to hunt down particular items across several different markets.

Quick note as you are grocery shopping: there are two bell peppers in this recipe – one in the paste, and another in the stew itself!

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